It had already been a rough day by the time the bleached blonde in the white SUV was giving me the middle finger.
Rough, as in my two-year-old daughter Bridget had been throwing irrational fits for hours, those kinds of spiraling tantrums where the kid slams their own head against the floor then screams even harder because their head hurts and you just can’t talk them down from the ledge.
Her antics were driving big sister Brontë up the wall too, because we were supposed to go to the library. I had promised we would go to the library earlier, as four-year-old Brontë kept reminding me.
Again and again.
Finally, we hopped in the car after Bridget calmed down enough to maybe hold it together for a while.
If we can just get to the library, I thought, maybe the kids will start having fun and calm down.
And the girls’ faces did light up upon seeing the library as we crossed the parking lot holding hands. Running up to open the big library door, they giggled while running straight to the play area inside.
Strolling in behind them, I walked over to the check-in machine within play-area viewing distance. I plopped my giant pile of books down on the table with great relief then pulled my head to my shoulder to work out the kinks.
I glanced over to check on my kids. Where’s Bridget?
Stepping back toward the play area, I was hoping to find her innocently standing somewhere since she’s little enough to disappear behind a chair. I looked around, but…
Grabbing Brontë’s hand, I started wandering about the library, softly calling “Briiiiiidggggggget…” as I began to panic. Just then, some flustered library employees came running up.
“Is that your baby upstairs?” they asked. “She’s running around tossing books off the shelves.”
Turning purple, I almost said “No, but I’m going to march her right back to her negligent mother and give that lady a piece of my mind.”
But I couldn’t, because I was right about to bring them the mangled From Up On Poppy Hill DVD we’d checked out that Bridget had gotten her hands on a few days earlier.
Instead, I mumbled some weak excuse about her taking off real fast before hoisting an angry Bridget onto my hip and returning to deal with the giant pile of books. She kicked the stack all over the floor a couple of times before I managed to check them all in.
Today’s library trip just wasn’t meant to be. I grabbed Brontë, handled the mangled DVD fiasco, and carted the thrashing toddler circus back to the car.
The kids were wailing as I drove toward the freeway, fantasizing about how I was going to lay them down the moment we got home. Coming up the off-ramp onto an exit-only lane, I pictured myself shutting their bedroom door before stepping outside for a breath of fresh air.
And quiet. That beautiful, peaceful, upcoming moment of quiet. I put on my left blinker.
An SUV far, far away began to speed up behind me, but there was still plenty of room and my lane was ending. I went left.
Then I noticed the SUV’s blonde driver in my rearview mirror. Pouty-mouthed beneath her giant sunglasses, she flipped me off wildly and conspicuously, so I wouldn’t miss it.
OH YEAH!? WELL, RIGHT BACK AT YA! I thought while throwing both arms out the window.
SUV Lady clearly wasn’t expecting this because she sped up to the next exit and left. Either she was scared or she had been planning to exit all along, which only make her outrage all the more confusing.
I watched her disappearing angry blonde head for a minute before hearing a little voice peep up across the backseat: “Mommy, what was that? With your fingers?”
Okay, try to be casual…
“That was a very rude gesture we’re not supposed to make, but mommy got caught up in the moment.”
“Why?” Brontë asked.
“Because that lady made it first.”
“Because she’s a… Umm, because some people are mad that other people need to use the road because they think only they should be allowed to drive and no one else should ever get in front of them. See, mommy needed to drive in front of that lady, so the lady got angry and made a rude gesture with her hand.”
“So… her mean?”
“Yes, she’s mean. She doesn’t want to share.”
“You make it with both hands.”
“Yes, to show the other lady how wrong she was. But it’s not a nice thing to do.”
“You did it by accident?”
That seemed to satisfy Brontë and she dropped the subject, shifting into yet another rehash about why Pinkie Pie is the best My Little Pony and the many reasons we need more pasta in our lives.
And since she hasn’t been running around the house flipping off her sister left and right, I figure we negotiated that minefield about as well we could.
Could have gone worse, at any rate. Someone could’ve started a fire.